A couple weeks ago, I experienced a work-in-progress screening of a documentary short that I edited the rough cut for. It was the first time I’d attended a public screening of something that I had edited. I often request family, friends and colleagues to look at something I’m in the midst of working on (pretty much anyone I can talk into taking a look). It’s very helpful to get that feedback and return to the drawing board with notes in hand. Nothing like a pair of fresh eyes on something. In this case the situation was a formal work-in-progress screening. The filmmaker organized the viewing and invited her peers as the audience. Although I felt nervous for both myself and the filmmaker, as a person can feel a bit vulnerable when one’s creative work is put to criticism, but it was an informative, good experience.
It’s interesting to hear from people you don’t already know. The post screening dialogue was supportive and polite, but honest (at least I hope) and the feedback was beneficial. There was a lot of discussion about what viewers loved, what didn’t make sense and what felt unnecessary. I’m happy to say most of the discussion wasn’t surprising. Issues people brought up had either occurred to me before, the filmmaker and I had discussed it, or both. There were still a few things that came up I hadn’t imagined before. All of which makes feedback pretty priceless. It can be disappointing and painful, but so far, in many cases, I’ve found it enlightening and validating. If someone is totally confused or bored or any combination there of, if you didn’t realize it before, then you’re enlightened (especially if you respect the giver of feedback). If you suspected it might be confusing, boring or any combination there of, you’re validated, for your intuition is probably on spot.
Of course when you’re showing a work-in-progress, the editor that constructed the rough cut isn’t necessarily the same editor that will refine it from there, so there is some letting go that one has to do, which is sometimes challenging. There are those gigs where you can’t wait for it to be done and never want to even hear about it again, much less work on it, but I’ve had the good fortune of encountering few of those scenarios. If it’s an interesting project with good people involved, I miss it when it’s gone. The piece sort of becomes it’s own personality along with the characters it represents, so I kind feel a loss when I’m not wrapped up in it and them anymore. Of course there’s something to be said for returning to a full night's sleep again too. After all, inevitably editing is working under tight deadlines.
So even though I felt a bit naked (and I was even sitting anonymously in the audience for most of the evening. Can’t imagine what the filmmaker felt like!) it was a good first work-in-progress event for me and I got a lot out of it. I was glad to be included. It is always nice when you like the project and like the person(s) you are working for and with. In this case, I was lucky enough to have that. The documentary short will be moving on to the next phase soon. That means I must accept the fact that I can't do one last tweak to one last thing before the final cut of the final rough sequence. It requires some letting go I mentioned above but I guess I can do that in exchange for a good night's sleep.